Last year we got a taste of Cooking Mama on the Nintendo DS and experienced the flavor of fun, low-budget casual gaming. Many months and many ripoffs later, Mama is back, and she's brought her friends. Cooking Mama 2: Dinner With Friends
is more of a second course to the meal than a sequel, but developer Office Create delivers the same casual fun that made the first a tasty little title.
For those that did not graduate from the Culinary Institute of Mama last year, the premise is simple. Mama has dozens of recipes for you to make using the touch screen. She'll walk you through the steps, and comment on how well you do (or how badly you mess up). After you've learned how to make dishes with Mama, you can try your hand at serving up dishes to her and her friends, thus earning medals.
Each dish is broken up into a series of steps. Some of them are as simple as cutting a vegetable in half, while others are a little more complex, like stir frying the previously chopped-up veggies. The recipes are dumbed down, so it's not going to be a teaching tool for aspiring Gordon Ramsays. However, messing up on one of the steps can ruin the entire dish, and incur Mama's wrath. Each dish takes all of one to two minutes to complete, so the game is not very long. It's designed to be a very casual title that is played occasionally. Players can go back to it and try new dishes, or attempt to master previous ones. It even serves as a bit of a culture lesson for Japanese cuisine (The things they do with eel, it's madness).
Cooking Mama 2 keeps its adorable design and wacky charm that made the first game delicious. The developers even added in some voicework for Mama, similar to the Wii version.
It's rather quirky, since it sounds like a Japanese person trying to speak English with an Italian accent, but it adds to the wacky feel the game exudes.
Mama's friends get rather excited when you make something tasty.
The engine is the same as last time, so Cooking Mama 2 plays exactly the same. The recipes are new, but a lot of the steps are brought over from the prequel. Chef wannabes slash, poke, flip, saute, and whip various foods into tasty meals, all using the touch screen. A lot of the minigames, like the rhythm-based boiling section, will be familiar to anyone that's been in Mama's kitchen before. In fact, the game is so similar that second-time chefs will not be near as entertained. The new features, such as the customization options don't really add enough to warrant putting on an apron again, but for newcomers they serve to make Dinner With Friends a more fleshed out title.
The single card multiplayer would have helped to bring players back to Mama, but it's set up in a disjointed way. Players select one minigame at a time, and compete in that, instead of preparing a whole meal. It would work to show someone how the game is played, but if they're the player can send the apple pie recipe to their DS.
Cooking Mama 2 is just as fun as the previous game. In fact, it pretty much is the previous game. The new stuff in Dinner with Friends is so arbitrary that they don't warrant the purchase for people that already whipped up meals a year ago. But for those that came late to dinner, Cooking Mama 2 is a slightly more presentable version that is fun for the casual gaming crowd.